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City considers contractor for trash pick up



AUGUSTA, Ga. – In Monday night’s work session meeting, the Thomson City Council heard a recommendation from the city administrator about which bid is best for taking over the city’s curbside garbage pick up.

The council will possibly be voting Thursday night to contract with a third-party for services. Contracting with a private company will save the city money and resources and residential customers will not see any increase in pricing. Some businesses, however, will likely see increases.

City Administrator John Waller led the council through a presentation and analysis of bids submitted by four companies.

“I wanted to walk you through what we did and how we did so everybody is comfortable with the process,” Waller told the board.

He said there is a trend now for cities to move toward contracting out garbage collection services.

“We know that there is very, very heavy maintenance costs trying to keep the fleet of trucks running,” he explained, as he talked about the money and time it costs the city to maintain garbage service on its own.

He showed the board how much money the city has lost money on the solid waste fund in recent years.

While detailing that, according to Waller the city’s solid waste fund had shortfalls of:

•$65,246 in 2016, but $48,346 was transferred from the gas fund to end the year at a loss of $16,900,

•$98,805 in 2017, but $130,805 was transferred from the gas fund for capital items and the solid waste department netted $32,000,

•$100,429 in 2018, but a FEMA Storm Damage payout of $89,000 and $95,429 in gas fund transfers put the solid waste department in the black by $84,000,

•$188,996 in 2019, but the gas fund supplied $62,500 for operating expenses and $79,429 for capital items plus $70,000 was transferred from the solid waste department’s prior year funds. Together, those funds helped the department net $22,933 at the end of the year,

•$128,29 in 2020, but gas fund transfers of $50,000 for operating expenses and $79,496 for capital items allowed the solid waste department to end the year with only a loss of $1,200.

“For the last five years, the solid waste fund has lost from a low of $65,000 to a high of $188,000. In a couple of those years, that final balance was positive but only because the gas fund contributed to the operational and, or, capital funds into the solid waste fund to make it more solid,” Waller said. “So bottom line is solid waste funds do not make money.”

He said many cities face this situation and as a result move toward contracting the service out to private companies. The City of Thomson charges $19 per month to residential customers. The bids from the four companies on residential pickup are for $12.25 from Waste Management, $14.46 from Capital Waste Services, and $17.90 for Meridian Waste. He showed the council that there would be an estimated $467,000 savings per year on the residential side if the city contracts it out.

However, much of that would be countered by an estimated $330,000 in tipping fees that would still be paid to the contractor. Actually, the net savings would be $136,838 on the residential collection portion, Waller explained.

Councilman Alton Belton asked about the $19 charge to residential customers compared to the lower dollar amount per customer charged by the bidding companies.

“The $19 that we charge has nothing to do with all with the proposals,” said Waller.

“We are going to keep the $19 intact. That is what we will bill everybody for trash service because that will cover what we pay the third party for pickup and also give us revenues for folks that pickup yard waste, furniture, and stuff,” said Mayor Kenneth Usry. “We’ve got to continue to operate that portion of solid waste. We can’t afford to back off that $19.”

Waller said one of the questions asked to the bidders was if they could pick up trash on the same day for people that the city did. A couple of the bidders said they would.